N. Korea’s 3-mis­sile test uses mul­ti­ple launcher

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - Choe San Hung

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — North Korea used a mul­ti­ple-rocket launcher off its east coast on Satur­day to fire three short-range mis­siles that could strike U.S. mil­i­tary bases deep in South Korea, of­fi­cials in Seoul said.

The launches were the North’s first rocket tests since two in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, or ICBMs, were fired last month. By re­sum­ing the tests, North Korea de­fied re­peated urg­ings from the United States and South Korea to stop weapons tri­als and other provo­ca­tions to pave the way for di­a­logue.

The U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand said that one of the three bal­lis­tic mis­siles had blown up im­me­di­ately after blastoff, but that two oth­ers had trav­eled about 155 miles be­fore splash­ing down.

That would be far enough to reach ma­jor South Korean and Amer­i­can mil­i­tary bases, in­clud­ing those near the city of Pyeong­taek, about 60 miles south of Seoul. The range also would be suf­fi­cient to reach Seongju, a South Korean town where the United States has be­gun in­stalling an ad­vanced mis­sile-de­fense sys­tem known as THAAD.

The North often has tested mis­siles with sim­i­lar scope, but the use of a mul­ti­ple-tube launcher shows an ad­vance in ca­pa­bil­ity.

The Pa­cific Com­mand pre­vi­ously said that two of the North Korean mis­siles had “failed in flight.” But that as­sess­ment was later re­tracted, and the amended view agreed with the South Korean mil­i­tary’s eval­u­a­tion of the dis­tance the pro­jec­tiles had trav­eled.

The mis­siles were 300-mil­lime­ter rock­ets fired from a mul­ti­ple-tube launcher, said Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman at the Blue House, South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial of­fice, where the coun­try’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil met Satur­day to dis­cuss the tests. It was not clear, how­ever, whether the three mis­siles were fired from a sin­gle de­vice or more than one.

North Korea has alarmed South Korean de­fense of­fi­cials be­fore with tests of its 300-mm. rock­ets and dis­plays of an eight-tube ver­sion of the sys­tem dur­ing mil­i­tary pa­rades. The of­fi­cials say the North has de­vel­oped the mul­ti­ple-tube launch­ers be­cause they are cheaper than short-range, Scud-type bal­lis­tic mis­siles and be­cause they en­able more pro­jec­tiles to be fired.

North Korea keeps thou­sands of rocket launch­ers, as well as long-range ar­tillery pieces, along the bor­der with the South, threat­en­ing to rain down a “sea of fire” on South Korean cities and is­lands near the bor­der. The old 240-mm. rock­ets have an es­ti­mated range of 37 miles, putting Seoul, a cap­i­tal with 10 mil­lion peo­ple, within reach.

Kim Dong-yub, a de­fense an­a­lyst at the In­sti­tute for Far Eastern Stud­ies at Kyung­nam University in Seoul, said the tests Satur­day ap­peared to be aimed at ex­pand­ing the strike range. Nev­er­the­less, the na­ture of the tests prompted some re­lief in the re­gion.

The mis­siles flew to the north­east, not to­ward Guam, home to ma­jor U.S. Air Force and Navy bases. North Korea threat­ened to launch bal­lis­tic mis­siles in a “ring of fire” around Guam after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened to hit the North with “fire and fury” if it per­sisted with its de­vel­op­ment of ICBMs.

CHUNG SUNG-JUN / GETTY IM­AGES

North Korea Scud-B mis­siles (at rear) are dis­played at the Korea War Me­mo­rial Mu­seum in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea launched three short-range mis­siles off its east coast Satur­day.

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